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We did it again: How to maximize RoI from any conference?

Ashwini Murthy
Ashwini Murthy
Nov 8, 2017
Min Read

Remember our legendary 'Greeting card' hack that we pulled off earlier this year at the IRCE conference in Chicago? We decided to up the ante. A bit of a refresher before we jump into the details: Conferences can be risky investments. You spend a lot just to get there and if you are putting up a booth, the stakes are even higher. Everyone orders conference swags from the same vendors. They don't matter. In our case, we were an unknown company, trying to sell eCommerce lead gen platform to vendors selling to eCommerce companies. We were trying to sell to those companies who spent money coming to a conference to sell to their customers. Odds were against us. We did meticulous homework on each one of them, printed personalized greetings for all of them and won them over. You can read more about it here. Now, dial forward to September 2017.We attended the 'Parcel Forum 2017' conference. Here, vendors selling to small-parcel shippers (eCommerce companies) congregate and plot how they can help eCommerce companies deliver a better experience than Amazon! When a lot of your prospects know you and are already expecting you to be cheeky and fun to gain attention, what more can you do? And, can we get more personal and yet go beyond gimmicks? How do we leave a lasting impression at a conference? How do we beat the odds of going into oblivion right after the conference?

Business cards are passe!

We realized from our earlier experience of 'greeting cards' that while it elucidated an immediate 'wow', it was hard to read everything written on it. We often had to jump in and explain who we were. The greeting card broke the ice but did not do the job of retaining their attention beyond the conference. The cards gave a 'moment of joy'. We wanted a way to keep that moment extended way beyond the conference. Enter 'Small parcels', that doubles up as business cards.

Why 'Small Parcels'?

Remember what the conference was all about? Small parcel shippers! We made small parcels for each logistics and warehousing company that came to the conference. A box that comes to your home from an eCommerce company is actually a 'box of joy'. The unboxing moment is a moment of feverish excitement and gratification. That moment is enabled by last mile couriers and logistics companies. Those were the ones that came to this conference. We wanted them to experience the same 'box of joy' that they were delivering to their customers' customers everyday.

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Going beyond the moment

The box had to make an instant impression. We put the logo of the receiving company on the top of the box's lid. And then did some more.

img_2681-01

We printed the insides of the box and the bottom with a custom pitch of what we could do for them. But, we never talked about it. We had something more in the box that they couldn't toss away and had to go back to it later (often much later, after they went back to their offices).

img_2680-01

How did we break the ice with the parcels?

“We are PipeCandy. We don't sell pipes nor do we sell candy.” This opening ensured that we always broke the ice in style. When the chuckles subsided, almost always they ask, so what does PipeCandy do? And when we explain, most of them would say, “I knew it! - it had something to do with sales and pipelines”. They all took pride in cracking the code, so to speak. Note that we didn't pop open the parcel until after the conversation was over. At the end of the conversation, when they asked for a business card, we'd say “Yes, indeed. We have a card and a box of chocolates made especially for you!" The box was amusing, even if we say so ourselves. The logo on the box was intended as an exciting personal touch and when they opened it, they found a bunch of Hershey’s Kisses chocolates inside.

img_2676-01

How did we tackle repeats?

We've been going to conferences for a year now. And we do meet the same people, often several times over. But the bigger the prospect is, the more the chances for different people coming to different conferences. We would have given them a greeting card a year ago and they'd not have kept in touch. Much to our dismay, in the next conference, they wouldn't attend but their colleagues would. We had to find a way to keep appearing on their radar and do it in a very personal way. So, here's what we did. We wrote a bunch of excruciatingly cheesy poems that would make a fourth grader cringe. We gave those poems and the boxes to the colleagues of our targets and asked them to deliver it to our target - with an explicit statement that we want to guilt trip them for ignoring us but we couldn’t bring ourselves up to do it and so we are making it up to them with chocolates, hoping they'd write to us again! Did it work?

See for yourself!

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How successful was our first conference?

  1. We closed one Fortune 10 customer. A small deal, but a huge marketing and credibility win.
  2. We won a couple of more good logos and a large (0.5B $ revenue) mid-market account
  3. We brought about $25,000 of immediate closures (with extensions coming along as we go) for a spend of about $5,000

What tricks do you have up your sleeve for maximizing RoI from conferences? Write to me at [email protected] and get featured on Bite, our weekly newsletter!

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